A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Beautiful Beulah Belle

The class of '74 just had our 40th reunion, so it's time for another rerun...

The cast:  L to R, Kathy Jones, Linda McKinney, Cathy
Newberry, me, Janice Cottingham, our sponsor Whil Harris,
Bert Wayne Vines, Marilyn Ferguson, Janet Yates, and
Carolyn Thompson.

Let us, for this week, leave behind the halcyon days of elementary school and rocket forward to November, 1972, and the Junior Class Play at Waldron High School.

The Junior Class was so laden with talent, in fact, that actually two plays were presented.  Hail the Hunkering Hero featured Randy Jones and Terry Nichols, among others, in the story of a bumbling football hero.  But the play I was in was called Beautiful Beulah Belle.

Under the artful direction of Janice Cottingham, Beautiful Beulah Belle told the story of a family of helpless females victimized by the dastardly Lucifer Lowdown, who demanded the hand of Beautiful Beulah Belle in marriage in return for the mortgage on the old homestead.  Other characters included Uralee, Beulah Belle's vampish sister, Mother-Dear, Auntie Anna, Granny Hannah, and the ultimate hero, Adonis Adrenalin.  The beautiful Marilyn Ferguson starred as Beulah Belle, while I had the role of the despicable Lucifer Lowdown.  The hero, Adonis, was portrayed by Bert Wayne Vines.  Other cast members included my sister Janet, Kathy Jones, Linda Sue McKinney, Cathy Newberry, and Carolyn Thompson, who held up a card that said "Boo Hiss" every time I appeared on stage. 

We had to try out for our parts, and I recall that during my audition, I assumed a particular sneering laugh for the character of Lucifer that I patterned directly from one of my cartoon heroes, Snidely Whiplash, from The Bullwinkle Show.  It was kind of a "nyuh-huh-huh," delivered while twirling the end of the glued-on moustache that was required of the part.  Incidentally, that was my first exposure to the world of moustache-wearing, and someone made a comment to me that my fake moustache looked pretty good.  Consequently, a couple of years later when I was in college, I grew my first moustache.  And, being the sentimental sort that I am, I kept my fake moustache as a souvenir.

My moustache.
But, back to the production.  We rehearsed extensively and all worked very hard on our parts.  We had a crew that created scenery and backdrops; we went all out.  Bert Wayne had the most difficult role to play, the outlandish Adonis Adrenaline.  The role required a lot of over-the-top farce, including speaking with a distinct lisp, and this was clearly outside of Bert Wayne's comfort zone. 

As the night of the performance drew near, our excitement and nervousness grew.  Finally, we were set to perform in front of a live crowd.  The old High School Auditorium was packed, and we stepped onto the stage with fear and trepidation, determined to do our best. 

The performance was going well, but several people had some concern about how Bert Wayne would be able to do, since he had been somewhat uncomfortable with his role during rehearsals.  But when Adonis Adrenaline hit the stage, Bert Wayne came alive.  To say that he knocked one out of the ballpark that night would be an understatement.  He played Adonis perfectly; animated, outlandish, and hilarious.  The audience roared its approval.  They got into the play, actively booing and hissing as instructed during my entrances and exits.  They applauded robustly at the end, when the cowardly Lucifer runs screaming from the stage and Adonis and Beulah Belle live happily ever after.

One day, a few years ago, I had occasion to revisit that stage.  I was principal of the elementary school in Waldron, and since the high school had relocated to their new building, I had gone by the central office and gotten a key and was looking through what was left at the old building to see if there was any furniture we could use at our school.  Walking alone through the abandoned high school building, I found myself flooded with memories.  Every classroom that I went in, it seemed, held a special memory.  When I stood on the stage, all alone in the auditorium, it was the Junior Class play that came to mind.  In my mind's eye, I saw my good friends, in character, and in particular the pretty Marilyn Ferguson as Beulah Belle, in the dress that her mom had made her by hand for the part.  Marilyn had moved in from Kansas City the year before, and little Waldron High School must have seemed strange to her.  When her mother was showing her around the school, Marilyn looked up the hall and asked her mom, "Where's the rest of the school?"  She was perfect for the part of Beulah Belle, and poor Lucifer Lowdown, smitten as he was, had no chance with Beautiful Beulah.  

But I, on the other hand, who had only been able to summon the nerve to admire Marilyn from afar, had gone to our class' 30th reunion in 2004, and found that Marilyn was single, and had asked her the brilliant question as to whether or not she ever went to see movies, and discovered to my amazement that she did, indeed, like to go see movies.  So Marilyn and I began seeing each other, and quickly realized that we had a future together.  So finally, after a few false starts and too many years of being alone, I got to marry Beautiful Beulah Belle. 

Here's to happy ever afters.


  1. What a lovely story filled with happy memories and a wonderful happily ever after!

  2. Beautiful Beulah Belle was a wonderful story. I played Lucifer Lowdon in Marian High School's (Framingham, MA) performance back in 1982.

  3. Glad I decided to stop by some blogs I hadn't visited in a while. I'll move you back onto my "good bloggers who have recently posted" list :-)

    (I'm sure this has made your day. This, and ten cents, won't buy much.)

    1. Thanks Jim; I'm pretty inconsistent on my posts now but I also check in with you from time to time and I'm very happy that your getting so much of your wonderful stuff published. You've always been an encourager and I think you must have a heart of gold!

  4. Even though I was 3 grades behind ya'll, I remember every cast member, but I'm sure I wasn't able to go to the play.